Ron Serving on California Work Group to Promote IPM

Thanks to Kimberly Rivers for a great little article about our in-house Pest Control Advisor Ron Whitehurst on an adventure with various pest management experts from around the state co-creating a common vision for a paradigm shift in pest management. Ron brings unique knowledge and experience about why IPM does not need to include any dangerous pesticides. Here is Kimberly’s article:

BUG GROWER JOINS STATE SUSTAINABLE PEST MANAGEMENT WORK GROUP I RON WHITEHURST TO HELP REDUCE CHEMICAL USE ACROSS STATE

May 12, 2021 | Kimberly RiversNewsVentura |  |     

Last month West Ventura resident Ron Whitehurst, pest control advisor and co-owner of Rincon-Vitova Insectaries Inc., was named to a new 26-member working group aimed at shifting the state’s agricultural operations away from the use of harmful chemicals, a stated goal of Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

“Transitioning away from toxic pesticides requires us to speed up the development of effective alternatives,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “By giving our farmers a suite of integrated pest management tools, we can better protect farmworkers and some of California’s most vulnerable communities. This dynamic task force will give us the roadmap to achieve this bold vision.”

Whitehurst with the other members of the new Sustainable Pest Management Work Group will work over the next 18 months to advise the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in developing policies to use non-chemical means for management of pest issues in agriculture. 

Taking a whole systems perspective, Whitehurst has developed his biological pest control knowledge over a lifetime of organic farming and gardening, and through working with mentor and Rincon-Vitova founder Everett J. “Deke” Dietrick, who pioneered effective biological control methods with his “Five Features of Ecologically Based Pest Management,” over 50 years ago. 

In October of last year, Newsom signed an order (1) citing the climate crisis and advancing directives to various state agencies including the California Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Food and Agriculture to “reinvigorate populations of pollinator insects across the state, which restore biodiversity and improve agricultural production.” The directive includes implementation of “strategic efforts to protect California’s native plants and animals from invasive species and pests that threaten biodiversity and economic activities,” as well as to “enhance soil health and biodiversity through the Healthy Soils Initiative.”

Newsom’s order led to a plan to increase fees associated with pesticide use, which will be used to fund programs initiated by the new order, including the new work group. 

Historically, the fees were standardized for all chemicals, regardless of level of toxicity. A tiered system is being considered with increased fees for chemicals that the state rates as more dangerous. The fee structure also brings back the Biologically Integrated Farming System (BIFS) programs using farmer-to-farmer and farmworker pest management training in organic and regenerative systems to build healthy soils with greater organic carbon, increased water holding capacity and resilient crop yields.

Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc., is located off of Ventura Avenue at 108 Orchard Drive and since 1950 has promoted ecologically-based agriculture solutions by providing beneficial organisms to enhance suppression and management of pests and diseases.  

  1. https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/10.07.2020-EO-N-82-20-.pdf
  2. https://www.rinconvitova.com

Hello Internet! This is Calista Marsh, writing as an intern at Rincon – Vitova Insectaries.

 

I discovered Rincon – Vitova Insectaries through an environmental work-study class I was taking at Ventura High School. Being my first official internship, I was a little nervous when I walked in the door. Of course, there was no need;  I was met by the friendly atmosphere that I have come to love about this place. The first thing we did was to go out into the garden and release green lacewings. This was the perfect introduction to the business, as I got to see firsthand the product and the reason for our efforts. I was also introduced to the cats, dogs, and geese living on the property, all of whom I’ve come to enjoy. By the time I left that first day, I could tell I my time here would be well spent.

The weeks that followed were filled with variety, from taking a trip to a horse rescue to building fly parasite release stations for our customers. No day has been exactly like the last, and each brings new knowledge and skills. Many days, I come home afterwards with bags of fruit or seeds or, more recently, a young loquat plant.

It is easy to say that I have enjoyed my time here, and easier still to say I’ve enjoyed the people. If I could imagine the ideal place to work (or in my case, to intern), Rincon – Vitova Insectaries would be a pretty good match. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend my time here, and I hope I’ve been helpful these past few weeks.

RVI Comments on Local Climate Action Plan and Agriculture and Water Chapters of the General Plan

January 18, 2018

Supervisor Steve Bennett, District 1

CC Supervisor Linda Parks, District 2; Phil White, Planning Commissioner, District 1; Susan Curtis, General Plan Update Manager

Dear Supervisor Bennett,

Generally our concern is that the current documents for the General Plan Update make insufficient reference to the centrality of and connections to climate change, and specifically to the parallel role of carbon sequestration along with emissions reduction and the requisite related policy to keep rain water on the land to support re-vegetation and carbon sequestration.

Also, in the Agriculture Chapter the resource of farmers and farm workers is missing as well as the myriad and growing linkages between agriculture and the whole community. In this letter we will suggest ideas and improved language in these areas. We have other suggestions and we know there are many more good examples of these features that might be added to the background documents, but these are the most important, are illustrative, and all we have time to get down.

  • Vision statement: CFROG’s language is superior in every way to that approved by the Planning Commission. Aside from your appointee who did his best under the circumstances, we believe the Commission was unreasonable and staff was not very helpful in the discussion about what CFROG proposed on behalf of dozens of organizations. Highlighted in CFROG’s proposed language below is most needed additional wording to make it true to science, state legislation, and the existential threat of climate change:

Vision Statement:  Ventura County is a remarkable place to live, with clean water and air for all residents and visitors. Our exceptional quality of life and economic vibrancy are rooted in regenerative, inclusive, non-toxic stewardship of all aspects of the place we call home. The protection and conservation of our soil, air, water, cultural heritage, natural resources, open spaces, human spirit and creativity are foundations of local policy and governance and together create the framework required for healthy people and a healthy economy.

In the vein of true stewardship, the Ventura County General Plan reflects the county’s ongoing commitment to doing our part within a global society facing the impacts of Climate Change, by continually collaborating with local residents, businesses, agencies, organizations and cities to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and draw down the overall amount of carbon in the atmosphere. 

  • Guiding principle for Climate Action Plan: Include “sequester (or draw down) carbon” as codified by SB 1386.

Climate Change and Resilience Guiding Principle:  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions [insert: and sequester carbon] to achieve all adopted targets, proactively anticipate and mitigate the impacts of climate change, promote employment opportunities in alternative energy and reducing greenhouse gases, and increase resilience to the effects of climate change.

  • The Background Document for the Agriculture Chapter is missing reference to human resources and to community linkages. The Background Documents for the Agriculture and Climate Chapters need to include Ventura County’s exceptional history and achievement with biologically based pest management, carbon sequestration practices, and roles of agricultural and storm water management practices in climate change mitigation.

Section 9.1 Agricultural Resources would be improved by a section about farmers, farm labor, consultants and suppliers. The Farm Bureau of Ventura County (FBVC), reports that the county employs 20,000 farm workers annually. The number of farm workers ranges seasonally from a low of 15,000 to a high of 25,000 during the peak spring and summer harvest of strawberries, lemons and avocados. The average age is 32. 95% were born in Mexico with an average of 53% who speak Spanish only and many speaking only Mixtec. The average duration in the US is 11 years. The average income of those workers is about $22,000 a year while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $62,200.

House Farm Workers!  was founded in 2004 to influence policy and do public outreach about the need for safe, decent and affordable farm worker housing. Several other organizations have stepped up to improve the conditions of farm workers in the county. The United Farm Workers aims to engage immigrants, works to reform the immigration system, and networks to influence policies and expand services.  A survey of farm workers conducted by Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) conducted a survey in 2015 of farm workers.  7 in 10 farm workers said their working conditions were dangerous or harmful to their health.  42% said they never take time off work for any reason.  Three in 5 farm workers in Ventura County said they’ve experienced at least one form of wage theft. Ventura County formed a Farm Worker Resource Program Advisory Committee in 2017 to set up an office and trained staff to address farm worker issues.

Farmers total ? in the county. The Ventura County Farm Bureau, founded in 1914, represents grower interests, fosters community action, and manages the Ventura County Agricultural Irrigated Lands Group, which was established in 2006 to help growers and agricultural landowners comply with state water quality regulations.

Organic Farming:  On page 9-32 the definition of organic farming is incorrect. Here is the USDA National Organic Program definition that should be used on page 9-32 (here is a description of practices: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Organic%20Practices%20Factsheet.pdf)

DELETE:  as farming practices that rely on natural fertilizers such as compost, manure, green manure, and bone meal in lieu of chemical pesticides.

INSERT: The USDA organic regulations describe organic agriculture as the application of a set of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. These include maintaining or enhancing soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.

The next paragraph can then include among organic practices the use of compost, mulch, cover crops, hedgerows, and diversified borders and interplantings.

Invasive Pests and Diseases on page 9-35 should be renamed Pest and Disease Management to accurately reflect the full scope of highest priority farming practices that prevent pests and disease. We would like to see that section begin by acknowledging the exceptional history and achievement of Ventura County farmers, landscape managers and gardeners with preventive practices that diversify farm ecosystems, build soil and plant resistance to pests and disease and thus proactively avoid use of pesticides.

Biologically Based Pest Management in Ventura County: Ventura County has been the historical home to seven beneficial insect production companies including three grower-owned cooperatives whose members were or are economically successful thanks to their investment in biologically-based pest management services. Least-toxic pest control products are manufactured and sold in the county and sold by many agricultural suppliers. The precautionary principle guides pest management decisions for many growers who do not use high-risk pesticides except as a last resort when there is no alternative to save a crop. There is a legacy and current investment in cutting edge knowledge about alternatives to the use of toxic pesticides. Despite the access to biologically based pest and disease management resources, pest management information from the county’s cooperative extension and Master Gardener Program are provided in a framework of Integrated Pest Management in which toxic pesticides are more commonly recommended than preventive and biologically based solutions.

The UC Cooperative Extension, Center for Regenerative Agriculture (CRA) and the Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology (DI) are among the institutions that extend those Best Management Practices. Dr Ben Faber at the UC Cooperative Extension has, for example, been promoting the use of mulch in orchards for over twenty years, a practice that conserves water and holds carbon.  David White has led CRA to host four courses in Ojai by the world-reknown soil ecologist Elaine Ingham resulting in approximately 150 graduate soil foodweb practitioners in the region. DI’s recommendations for enhancing beneficial insect habitat using non-crop borders, interplantings and hedgerows remain a common practice seen beautifying farms and attracting and providing food for naturally occurring beneficial insects.

Bill Camarillo of Agromin may provide over 90 percent of the compost and mulch applied on working lands in the county; those quantities should be part of the record. Jamie Whitecomb at the Ventura County Resource Conservation District and Dawn Afman, USDA-NRCS Soil Conservationist are familiar with soil conservation practices, achievements and needs through promotion of the Organic Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Transition to Organics Ojai maps lands that are managed biologically to avoid toxic pesticides and sequester carbon.

The CALANDS model being developed by CARB for tracking statewide goals and targets for carbon sequestration now offers a reliable regional framework. The COMET-Farm Voluntary Carbon Reporting Tool allows farmers/ranchers to estimate carbon values for various management practices in order to apply for California Healthy Soils Initiative payments from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. There is know-how and funding to quantify baseline and changes in carbon and emissions for all land categories by type, ownership and management practices or by degradation due to drought, fire, flood, or agronomic inputs.

Farm and Community Linkages

We strongly recommend that a section on this topic be added, perhaps on Farming Operations on page 9-35 to celebrate the good news story about Ventura agriculture’s growing high-quality interactions with the community at large. This relationship has been fostered for decades through the UC Hansen Trust whose mission is to sustain agriculture in Ventura County through research and education to benefit the community as a whole.

The Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture (SEEAG) founded in 2008 by Mary Maranville has held a Farm Day every fall since 2012 with self-guided tours to 20 unique agri-tourism destinations that can be found in Ventura County to connect people with their agricultural roots.

SEEAG also made a remarkable achievement in 2017 hosting every third grader in Ventura County to Petty Ranch for Farm Lab. The lesson includes “The Journey of our Food”, “The Biology of Healthy Farm Soil”, “Bugs: Pollinators, Pests and Beneficials”, and “The Life Cycle and Science of Plants” and the next class of third graders will enjoy these learning experiences.

SEEAG and other organizations also provide lessons about agriculture for middle and high school students in the S.T.E.M. program. High school students attend the Annual Agriculture Career Fair held at the Museum of Agriculture in Santa Paula that also hosts tours with stations focused on plant growth, farm to table labor dynamics, seasonal produce, beneficial insects, farm practices past and present, water issues, and more. Santa Paula High School is the site of a new school farm as well as a thriving Future Farmers of America program and a new self-funding horticulture therapy training program, Growing Works, is launching in 2018 in Camarillo. There are three Grange programs with youth livestock programs in the county in addition to 4H.

The Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) is the site of one of southern California’s premier Farm to School programs. The program’s goals are to provide local students with healthy lunches and nutrition education and connect schools to local farmers. Ojai’s Food for Thought program is also a collaboration with Farm to School. Many other schools have school gardens, often with small grants from Captain Planet Foundation where lessons are tied to common core curriculum standards and encourage inquiry-based and hands-on experiential learning. Among them are E.P. Foster Elementary, Mound and Sheridan Way Elementary schools in Ventura; Rio Del Norte Elementary School and Tierra Vista Elementary in Oxnard; and San Antonio Elementary School in Ojai.

Finally there are 12 Farmer’s Markets, 14 Community Gardens and the Abundant Table Farm was awarded a multi-year USDA grant to found a Food Hub to improve market access for producers along with their potential for expanding the availability of healthy, fresh food, especially in underserved communities.

3. Water Chapter: 

What appears missing in the Water Chapter is a focus on what happens to rain in the hills above each of the county’s three watersheds. There have been decades of erosion in upland gullies, flooding and denuding the land as stormwater floods into the three main rivers and to the sea. Some hydrologists see the intensified drought, wildfire and floods that are coming with climate change as symptoms of a global pattern of failure to safeguard the ability of the uplands to slow and sink rain water into the ground. Also, in developed areas, impervious pavement is further causing not just with heat island effects but, due to channeling of rain water into storm drains and out to sea, is dehydrating developed lands.

These conditions need to be included in the background document to provide a framework for goal-setting to reverse these trends through small earthworks, such as catchments, swales with diversions, microbasins, and many other measures that capture stormwater to prevent flooding and its contribution to sea level rise, make the streams and rivers stable and fed by underground water movement that best supports fish populations, support a succession of perennial vegetation to restore degraded lands and reduce heat islands while sequestering carbon and through increased evapo-transpiration restoring small cooling water cycles or microclimates. Where rain water flows is closely tied to the Climate Action Plan because you cannot sequester more carbon when the soil does not hold water, nor can you effectively mitigate the conditions for wildfires or flooding when the soil has lost water-holding capacity. It was clearly observed that irrigated land served as a firebreak in the Thomas Fire, except when palms and arundo were present. Even well-watered eucalyptus trees did not burn.

The hydrologists with a new organization called Rain for Climate explain the process of degradation and restoration of small water cycles. The principal hydrologist Michal Kravcik worked with me and wrote the attached proposal last May for how to apply these principles to the Ventura River Watershed Initiative.

Michal Kravcik is now putting his attention on the upper tributaries of the Santa Clara River. We learned from the county hydrologist that the high probability of flooding at the levee at River Park is forecast to be 60% fed by Sespe Creek. Small measures to re-hydrate and vegetate the uplands of Sespe Wilderness Area could remove the need for the proposed $41 million levee repair that engineers said may still not stand up to the big flood predicted even before the fires.

We recommend that the background document for the Water Chapter describe not just the hydrology of the streams, riverbeds and water stored above and below ground, but to put attention on the opportunities coming with the rapidly shifting paradigm about the advantages and methods for keeping rain where it falls, especially in the hills above our towns. The techniques are proven, very inexpensive, capable of being done by volunteers with hand tools, and the benefits go far beyond local storm water management. At risk of troubling wildlife professionals who have had some bad experiences with beaver, we would like it on record that evidence has been found that beaver once inhabited the Sespe wilderness. We have recently been persuaded that reintroduction of beaver in the uplands of the Sespe would bring potential services for flood prevention that far outweigh their annoying, but manageable behaviors.

On page 10-2 are found the general practices associated with land development of vegetation removal and channeling water to the ocean. It states, “Some development can significantly alter land topography. Removal of natural vegetation and manmade structures such as levees, dams, and diversion structures disrupt natural hydrologic processes (i.e. sediment transport and deposition, groundwater recharge). These changes alter water velocity, river substrate, water shading, soil moisture, and other ecosystem characteristics needed by fish and wildlife.” 

What is missing from that list of impacts is flooding, heat island effects and desertification that are drivers of  climate change. These impacts are contributing to global warming and sea level rise. Reversing these negative impacts of development will cool and stabilize microclimates because natural hydrologic processes involving latent heat of evapotranspiration from vegetation are restored and the mulch layer on soil and the root systems receive and hold rain water. The sum of many such mostly small, simple local actions can stabilize the climate over whole continents.

Thanks for the opportunity to share our perspectives.

Sincerely,

Jan Dietrick, MPH, President, and Ron Whitehurst, PCA, Co-Owners

Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc, 108 Orchard Dr, Ventura, CA 93001

 

Senator Boxer Continues to Fight for the Right to Know

United States Senate

Dear Jan:

Thank you for expressing your concerns about the labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Ensuring that Americans are provided critical information about the foods they eat is important, and I appreciate hearing your views.

I have proudly introduced S.809, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  This bipartisan legislation would direct the Food and Drug Administration to clearly label genetically engineered (GE) foods, including fish and seafood, as well as food containing GE ingredients so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat.

My bill has strong support from a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen, and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they feed their families.

In my continued efforts to establish labeling requirements for GE food, I also offered two amendments to the Senate version of the Farm Bill.  One amendment would have produced a report on GE food labeling, and the other would have expressed a sense of the Senate in support of labeling.  I also supported an amendment that would have reaffirmed a state’s right to require labeling of GE food.  Unfortunately, these proposals were not included in the final Senate Farm Bill.

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act has been referred to the Senate Health Committee.  Be assured that I will keep working to see my bill passed by Congress and signed into law.

Again, thank you for writing to me.  Please know that I will continue to fight for a safe and environmentally responsible food supply system that also protects consumers’ right to information.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator
February 18, 2014

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Label GMOs to Avoid Eating Roundup

Roundup will soon make its annual appearance as a mountainous stack of jugs by Home Depot cash registers across the nation, maybe not quite as much in California this spring since without rain there should not be as many weeds. However, spraying with Roundup is a way of life in American cities and farms. It is hard to maintain a sense of alarm about something so familiar.

We are jarred back to awareness about the effects of Roundup on human health and wildlife when we listen to interviews and talks of Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University. We were speakers at the ACRES USA 2013 Conference in Springfield, Illinois, last December, where Dr. Huber also spoke. A CD of his main talk Failed Promises, Flawed Science — the Interaction of GMOs & Glyphosate on Soil, Plant, Animal, Human Health  is available. At no charge you can read a 2011 interview of Don Huber by ACRES USA posted by Organic Consumers Association. Other helpful information about health risks of Roundup are found in the reviews by Antoniou, Robinson and Fagan, 2012, and Ho, 2013.

Consumption of Roundup is on the rise because it is a major component of many genetically engineered foods and also in drinking water

The GMO seed/pesticide industry claims that GE crops use less pesticide. This is pretty far-fetched when over 85% of GE crops are engineered to tolerate herbicide (a type of pesticide) in increasing amounts every year to total around 150 million pounds on 100 million acres annually in the US.  We are talking pretty much all of the corn and soy, the sugarbeets and canola, and a lot of the alfalfa hay that is not certified organically grown plus most of your neighbors’ yards, local parks, roadsides and other landscapes. Hence, Roundup in our food and water. Bohn et al (2014) found that the Roundup and AMPA (the toxic breakdown product of Roundup) composition of GMO soybeans in Iowa was mean 3.3 and 5.7 mg/kg, respectively compared to none in the conventional and organic soybeans. California allows 1,000 ppb of glyphosate in drinking water which 1,000 times higher than the amount shown to cause a 500% to 1300% increase in cancer cell growth. The only way to know how much is in your water is to contact your supplier. Apparently it is usually well under the allowed levels, but it does not breakdown like the manufacturers say it does. It remains toxic as it moves into groundwater. The Health Ranger has reported on water and is now doing independent testing of toxic substances in foods that are not being reported by government agencies.

Farmers spray crops with herbicides that the seed is genetically engineered to tolerate so they can save on labor costs of weeding by other means. The weeds develop resistance, so the farmers spray more often at higher rates.  US EPA then increases the amount allowed in food. Last, but not least, the industry is engineering corn and soy to be resistant to not just Roundup, but more dangerous herbicides like 2,4-D. There is one such product under consideration right now. The comment period about what opponents are calling “agent orange corn” has been extended to April 27. Learn more here and weigh in.

Safe as Table Salt

At pest management conferences since the 1980’s there have been Monsanto presenters, including well-polished young professional women, saying how safe the active ingredient glyphosate is to humans and all living things. Daniel, et al, 2009, then showed that the surfactants in the Roundup formulation increase cellular uptake of glyphosate at normal body pH, so biologically based pest management experts like us began challenging Monsanto speakers about true toxicity of the commercial product. It took many years for experts to find out that that the Roundup is 10 to 100 times more toxic than the glyphosate.

Glyphosate binds up trace minerals

One of Don Huber’s research interests was to look at changes in soil microflora caused by glyphosate, especially the micronutrients, such as manganese, iron and zinc. These levels can be 80-90 percent reduced in genetically engineered Roundup Ready plants. The scientific literature builds on Huber’s research that includes tools he helped developed for this type of research leading to evidence of glyphosate’s residual effects on wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans, potatoes, citrus and more. Huber explains, “Glyphosate is the reason we are seeing a reemergence of diseases we thought we had controlled.” Learn more about new diseases in crops sprayed with Roundup on from Don Huber speaking about Managing Nutrition to Control Plant Disease on another CD available from ACRES USA.

Huber explains the activity of glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Roundup and related herbicides. It is a systemic, broad-spectrum herbicide. His description of how it functions is outlined in Sirinathsinghji and Ho, 2013, as follows:

  • Accumulates in plant tissues (shoot and root tips, reproductive structures, and legume nodules)
  • Some glyphosate moves into roots and is released into soil (fast sorption; slow degradation)
  • Released by phosphorus
  • Makes the plant susceptible to diseases

Glyphosate is toxic to microorganisms, plants, animals and humans

Studies show effects on beneficial organisms, such as N-fixing organisms needed for organic soil building and valuable mycorrhizae fungi, biocontrol organisms, earthworms, and other plant growth promoting organisms. This increases the damage done by disease organisms in the soil and explains the appearance of diseases that never appeared until broadscale application of Roundup.  It is also a potent antibiotic against human gut bacteria that are now understood to be vital for human health. It is thought to operate in animals and humans as it does in plants, as a mineral chelator, making mineral nutrients unavailable. There is an increase in over 30 diseases alongside the increased consumption of Roundup and GE proteins in food.

Don Huber also warned about the risks of genetically engineered food crops after discovering a new organism in GE animal feed that has since been linked to infertility and miscarriage in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry. The new microbe is linked to “Sudden Death Syndrome” (SDS) in animals.

Many diseases including birth defects that are parallel in amphibians and human cells

The review of health risks from glyphosate  by Antoniou, et al (2011) focuses on the evidence of birth defects. A report by Sirinathsinghji and Ho, 2012, explains the unnatural expression of developmental genes from glyphosate. Between 2000 and 2009 when Roundup Ready GMO soybeans were introduced in Argentina, there was a four-fold increase in cancer and birth defects. The head and face of human fetuses become deformed in the same way as in tadpoles. Chick embryos with glyphosate-based herbicides showed similar defects–loss of head features including the future eyes.

Glyphosate could play some role in bee colony collapse disorder

In an article about GMO foods, there is a hypothesis posed by Dr. Huber about a role of glyphosate in the crisis of dying pollinators. He observes that there are three established characteristics of colony collapse disorder that suggests glyphosate could be (at least in part) responsible:

  • The bees are mineral-deficient, especially in micronutrients
  • There’s plenty of food present but they’re not able to utilize it or to digest it
  • Dead bees are devoid of the Lactobacillus and the Bifidobacterium, which are components of their digestive system

The bees also become disoriented, suggesting endocrine hormone disruption, which is an effect of neonicotinoid insecticides that have been implicated in honeybee die-off.  Dr. Huber cites a study on glyphosate in drinking water at levels that are commonly found in US water systems, showing a 30 percent mortality in bees exposed to it. And that’s just from common levels of glyphosate in drinking water, not the amount of Roundup in the water available to bees on farms.

Watch your consumption of Roundup

In 2013 under pressure from farmers who cannot control weeds due to overuse of Roundup and the resistance of the weeds (becoming “superweeds”), the FDA raised the limits. Fruits can have concentrations from 200 ppb to 500 ppb glyphosate. Animal feed, such as hay, is allowed up to 100,000 ppb glyphosate; oilseed crops can contain up to 40,000 ppb; potatoes can contain 6,000 ppb glyphosate. It is not known how much Roundup is in the animal products that eat so much Roundup in their feed, but the animals have abnormal mineral composition and are often sick with disgestive and reproductive problems. Some scientists conclude that the levels of intake of glyphosate now common in the typical American diet are carcinogenic.

There is also Roundup in water.  EPA standards for maximum amount of glyphosate in water is 0.7ppm (700 ppb) even though there has been evidence of organ damage in animals and lung congestion in humans at 0.1ppb. FDA admits that long-term exposure at such high levels (700 times greater than the maximum limit) can cause kidney and fertility damage. The glyphosate in the food given to animals is extremely high because 85% of those crops are genetically engineered to tolerate Roundup sprays. As described at the start, the poison is taken up by the plant with the help of added surfactant ingredients in the commercial product.

EPA will review Roundup risk in 2015—meanwhile GE food needs to be labeled and young adults need more education about how to avoid eating GMOs

These findings of DNA damage and links to cancers, miscarriages, liver, endocrine disruption, and mortality to amphibians have been reported to the US EPA and the European Food Safety Authority. Roundup is coming up for its next 15 year review by the EPA in 2015 when lower-level scientists say they expect it to be banned. It should have been banned when the first questions were raised, and certainly now since it is present in greater and greater amounts in food.

Most of the GMO food is Roundup Ready and the biotechnology industry is lobbying for approval of food that will tolerate both Roundup and 2,4-D, a relative of Agent Orange defoliant. It is more urgent than ever that GMO food be labeled so people have a better chance of reducing the amount of Roundup in their diets. Long-term toxic exposure to Roundup is a major health risk and people in their twenties have been exposed their whole lives and it will keep getting worse, especially for people who eat large amounts of processed corn and tortillas where the amount of Roundup is certainly toxic through long-term exposure.

Don Huber observes that if you count up the number of fertility clinics in a community now compared to 15 years ago, you know that something is affecting fertility.  TIME Magazine reported that general fertility rate in the U.S. in 2011 was the lowest ever recorded; the birth rate for teenagers ages 15 to 19 declined; birth rates for women ages 20 to 24 hit a record low; and rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women dipped. Only women ages 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 are more likely to have babies now than in the past.  Those women have not been exposed to genetically engineered food for such a large part of their lives and during their formative years. Infertility and birth defects in lab animals and livestock fed GMOs and Roundup are likely to manifest similarly in humans.  Mothers and their pediatricians who take their children off of GMOs are sharing their testimonials to the health benefits.

The evidence is clear that genetically engineering of food adds health risks regardless of the trait inserted into the genome, but with the prevalence of the Roundup Ready gene and Roundup in the food supply, it makes sense to call your elected officials to ask for mandatory, reliable labeling of genetically engineered food just in order to be better able to avoid consuming so much Roundup in the GMO soy and corn.

By Jan Dietrick, MPH – Feb 2014

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